Akron, OH

Akron Zoo unveils Sumatran tiger in new 'Wild Asia' exhibit

Angela Kervorkian-Wattle

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The Akron Zoo will unveil the new Wild Asia and launch its grand opening on May 29. The exhibit is the culmination of seven years of work and a $17 million investment. Wild Asia takes the spot of Tiger Valley in the oldest areas in the zoo, which was built in the 1990s.

Spokeswoman Elena Bell says the new exhibit offers different climate zones that are used to much different temperatures.

The new habitat will home Akron Zoo's Sumatran Tigers and Red Pandas.

"Until 2018 we had a tiger and a Red Panda here so they'll be making their triumphant return. And then we're also going to be introducing a new primate species, the White-Cheeked Gibbon," Bell said.

Bell stated that the gibbons are native to Thailand and Vietnam. They are not able to go outside if the temperature is colder than 50 degrees. So the zoo provided a 'day room' for the gibbons, and visitors can still see and watch them from outside. If it's warm enough outside, they can come out. These animals also have a beautiful outdoor habitat.

"Our red pandas are native to the Himalayan Mountains, so they love the cold. They love the snow, so we made some adaptations in their habitat with a cave that we can actually air condition," Bell added.

Bell also reminded that the gibbons are a critically endangered species. The gibbons in the Akron Zoo are bonded pairs. Zoo officials hoped that they would be encouraged to mate in the future.

The exhibit has several themes. One of them concerns habitat destruction, where the tigers and gibbons are portrayed as being threatened by the agricultural need to build palm oil plantations. The zoo encourages visitors to download an app that shows whether palm oil comes from a sustainable plantation to spread awareness of the issue.

Bell explained that visitors could scan barcodes and search products through the app to tell them like 'Is this good palm oil, [or] is this bad palm oil?'. The visitors might be shocked when knowing that palm oil can be found in products or objects they don't realize.

Planning for Wild Asia and its companion, Pride of Africa, began in 2014. The zoo opened Pride of Africa in 2019.

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